Tilman Riemenschneider, 1460-1531

a fifteenth century
German woodcarver
used massive clear grained
limewood blocks that carved
like chilled butter held an
eyebrow arc a pointed finger a
waterfall of tresses an erotic
gaze for centuries through fiery
pitch covered boulders hurled by
catapults smashing church walls
and stained glass windows

people put the carvings
in caves and cellars
wrapped in wet burlap
carried them under
sheets of fire these figures
of townspeople posed as saints
apostles and martyrs

once I caught a glimpse
in a moment a decade
a second a season
an unruly honor
among so many
I missed

A Free Press

fast twitch words
like chalk
juniper berries
the jewelry
of lies
scattered in
bright bunches
emachinations
in the smoke trees

downstream
four long oars
endlessly blade
the uncut water
more and more
resolving them
catch and pull
and feathering
where it gets steep
into a cargo net
of stuttering pauses

The Mirror of the Late War

My brother Don Brandis is a fine poet. Here is one of his that was recently published on Clementine Unbound. I find it to be a meditation on the consequences of being unconscious in our own actions, individually and as nations. It resolves into a wonderfully spooky images of nature as a mirror of our intoxication with our own unawareness and its outcomes.

The Mirror of the Late War

We were so, so, so . . .
ordinary, our every enterprise
would soon miscarry
not that failure was intended
but our intent was only clear
when it was flagrantly upended,
even to us. No, especially
we’d sort the wreckage
and believe it necessary.
When the moon was full
the fields were silver with its sheen
as if they were not ground but sea
inhabited by churning shoals of fish
drawn out like moths in moon-madness
mocking us for sane and sober sloths
who were by seeming accident both.

Don Brandis is a retired healthcare worker living a happily married hermit’s life in a small town not far enough from Seattle, reading and writing poems, tending fruit trees, and meditating. He writes because good poems are invitations to engage intrinsic values in a culture that only values tools. He has published some poems with Melancholy Hyperbole, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Poetry Quarterly, The Hamilton Stone Review, and elsewhere.

That Ain’t It

My uncle Tom was a family doctor in Rockingham, North Carolina.
Bald, with wire framed glasses and a wry smile, he had a joke
for every occasion and the driest sense of humor I have ever known.
Once my mother went to visit her brother Tom soon after
he returned from the war. She waved and waved and called to him
from the bus window as they pulled in. “Hi Tom!” she cried.
“I never forget a face,” he replied.

Uncle Tom used to tell a story about being invited to go
on a racoon hunt with some of his patients. He worked long hours,
but raccoon hunting is mostly done at night. It doesn’t interfere
with your day job. On my uncle’s first hunt the hounds had treed
a raccoon and were baying to beat all, but nobody went after them.
Everybody just stood around the campfire laughing and telling stories
and listening to the dogs—the males calling out in a low, throaty bugle
and the females a note higher, the sound rolling through the pine trees
and out across the river. My uncle was confused and a little impatient
with it all—he was a get it done kind of guy and it was well after midnight.
“Shouldn’t we go after them?” he said. His friends just laughed.
“That ain’t coon hunting,” they said.

James the Brother of Jesus Talks Smack

Hey, it’s is only my gimp brother making “miracles”
by the Galilee sea, wandering with his herd of lost boys
and prostitutes. Nobody asks me what I think of him.
Nobody asks me if I think he is the Anointed One.
The Way, the Truth and the Light.

How many prophets do we need?
He doesn’t listen, he has blinding headaches
that knock him down for days. His deformed leg?
He was born that way. Dad went easy on him
because of it. He wasn’t much use in the shop.
Does God speak through him? How should I know.
He won’t even talk to us. He says we aren’t his family now.
Who disowns his family in this world?

Brothel

‘Violent touch and violence in rooms’ — John Berryman

The abandoned brothel above the architect’s office
in Portland’s Old Town where I had my first real summer job
in 1972 had a long hallway with narrow rooms. Each one
had a light switch outside and a red light over the door inside
Most of the walls were gone only framing and a half inch of
dust like grey lint and pigeon shit everywhere and I could see the
old police chief or councilman with a taste for the rougher sort of thing
slamming up the backstairs making the girls stomachs tighten
waiting to see who he would pick and the madam handing out
a few extra dollars for the night because it usually meant at least
a black eye or worse

The summer I worked there our charismatic young mayor
was secretly molesting the fourteen year old daughter
of a campaign worker and having his chauffeur and his fixer
cover his tracks for decades as he went on to the governor’s office
and then a federal appointment with his party making big plans for him

Now we have a US president who brags openly about molesting women
and uses a mafia-trained fixer to clean up his messes and says he
would date his daughter if she weren’t related to him and I now
know that most often violence happens in closed rooms
instead of streets or on battlefields where you can see it coming
or get out of the way or shoot back and yet a majority of white
women voted for this president even knowing all this about him

I’m back in Old Town and there is a clothing store and a
software company in that building now and life goes on
like it always has except maybe something is changing because my
daughter in college and her friends were harassed at work for weeks
and refused to put up with it and spoke up about it and now that guy
doesn’t work there anymore and that never would have happened
in Old Town in the good old days

Intaglio

You left side reminded me of Jesus where the centurion speared him
And skin sores like a field of feral poppies
I am as lonely as treated water. Letting go or hanging on
Two sides of the same stupid park statue

The hospital road colonized by lumpy strained soup buildings
Hallway smell of disinfectant like your smarmy doctor I couldn’t stand
The baying from husks of old men; you insisted on dying there
I think we were all a bit relieved though I am ashamed to say it

Like skiing off a cliff edge leaving tracks
on the window skin colliding with the bed and the sound
of water running in the linoleum tile bathroom
Pillows with old car badges pinned on them

A bedpan propped against a footboard
Curtain strained light around the head and hands
The moon sliding between your Navajo black pottery
like a hubcap rolling off a car and down the embankment